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WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite

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The 2017 WTA Finals eight players (zimbio.com)

For the fourth consecutive year the best players in the world will descend upon Singapore to play in the season-ending WTA Finals.

 

The eight highest scoring players on the tour this season will grace their presence in the round-robin tournament, which has a prize money pool of $7 million. Those eight have been split into two groups, called red and white. The top two players in each group will then progress to the semifinals.

Unlike previous years, seven out of the eight participants have the ability to end 2017 as world No.1. France’s Caroline Garcia is the only exception. Furthermore, five players are aiming to be the first from their country to win the tournament. The five is made up of Simona Halep (Romania), Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) and Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia).

The Red Group

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Current world No.1 Simona Halep will headline the red group. Until the past month, 2017 has been a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for the Romanian. Her consistency on the tour, illustrated by a win-loss of 46-15, has brought her close to the top spot on numerous occasions. At the French Open, she lead Ostapenko by a set and a break in the final before being denied her first grand slam and the No.1 ranking. It was a trend that continued to occur until she struck gold in Beijing in a somewhat fitting fashion. Getting revenge against Ostapenko to reach the final.

“Inside I can say that something has changed. I’m very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It’s just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I’m here just to enjoy the moment and we’ll see what is going to happen.” Halep told reporters about her rise to No.1.
“The dream came true. It is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”

Halep has reached five finals of the tour this season with her sole victory occurring in May when she defended her title at the Madrid Open.

Aiming to derail the top seed are three players that have previously scored wins over her at some point in their careers. Elina Svitolina has won more singles trophies (five so far) on the WTA Tour than anybody else this season, including two Premier 5 tournaments. She also owns the record of the longest streak on the tour this season with 15 consecutive wins. Against Halep, she has already defeated her twice this year.

“Of course I have lots of confidence. I mean, I won five tournaments this year. It was an amazing year for me. Lots of good memories. Hopefully it will continue in this tournament, as well. I’m looking forward to each challenge, you know, and it’s been an amazing year with so many good things.” Said Svitolina.
“Of course there have been some very disappointing losses, as well. For me, just the road to the top is never straight. It’s always with some curves (smiling).”

Making her fifth appearance, Caroline Wozniacki is eager to go deep in a tournament once again. The Dane had to settle for runner-up six consecutive times this season before prevailing at the Pan Pacific Open to win her 26th tour title. Despite being a former grand slam finalist and world No.1, 2017 is the first year she has managed to score 10 or more wins over top-10 players. Overall, she has won 55 matches this season, more than any other player in the tournament.

Hoping to capitalise on her previous WTA Finals experience, Wozniacki is aiming to reach the semifinal stage for the fourth time.

“”It’s a little bit of a different surface. I think if the balls hit through, they kind of skid through the court. If there is a bit more spin on it, the ball stops and it’s very slow. But I have played well here before, and I’m just excited for the challenge.” Wozniacki commented on the playing surface in Singapore.

Completing the group is 8th seed Garcia, who is one out of three players making their debut in the event. She secured her place with the help of a dream run in China. The 24-year-old is currently on a 11-match winning streak after claiming back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. In Beijing, she disposed of both Svitolina and Halep. Underlining her threat to the group. Earlier this year Garcia reached her first major quarter-final at the French Open before going out to Karolina Plisklova.

“I think it’s a great challenge for me. To improve, to learn a lot of things, to get experience to be ready for next year. Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki are the best we can do in this kind of styles, and they will have to make me work from the baseline, try to be very aggressive, play with my shots. I can’t ask for a better match to play, for sure.” – Garcia.

Head-to-head

Halep Wozniacki Svitolina Garcia
Halep 2-3 2-2 2-1
Wozniacki 3-2 0-3 2-0
Svitolina 2-2 3-0 1-1
Garcia 1-2 0-2 1-1

The White Group

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A mixture of old and new features in the quartet. Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is the highest ranked player in the group. The Spaniard enjoyed a brief four-week spell as world No.1 before being dethroned. She heads into the draw winning 46 out of 65 matches played this season. On the tour, she clinched the Cincinnati Open title with a 6-0, 6-1, thrashing against Halep. Muguruza has also been named the WTA ‘s player of the year.

“At the beginning of the year I had a few injuries and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I worked so hard in the preseason I couldn’t really show it on the court.” Explained Muguruza.
“I didn’t drop my spirit. In the clay season, I was really motivated, and I just cleaned that and started strong at Wimbledon, thinking that my time was gonna come. After that, everything went well. And what I like the most, it’s like after winning a Grand Slam I could manage to maintain that level for a couple more tournaments and not just lose.”

Pliskova will make her second consecutive appearance in Singapore after crashing out in the round robin stages last year. Known for her fierce serve, she has won a trio of premier titles in 2017 (two on a hard-court and one on grass). So far she has defeated four top-10 players this season, including Muguruza on two occasions. The Czech has also managed to reach the quarter-finals or better at three out of the four majors. Her best season performance at the grand slams to date.

“I think my group [has] more aggressive-style players in the group and the other one is more defending. I just like to play better these players. I played all of them a few times. It’s not that I didn’t lose to them, but it’s just like I like better their style of the game.”

At the age of 20, Ostapenko is the youngest player to debut at the WTA Finals since Wozniacki back in 2010. She rose to the limelight following her fairytale run at the French Open. At Roland Garros, where she was unseeded, Ostapenko knocked out four seeded players to claim her first title of any sort. More recently, she triumphed at Korea Open. Winning 42 matches this season, the Latvian has the second-lowest amount of tour wins in the entire draw.

Finally, Venus Williams continues to prove the age is irrelevant. The 37-year-old made her finals debut back in 1999. Overall, she has played in the tournament four times, winning it in 2008. A lot has changed since then, but the American has managed to fight her way back to the top.

“Just the depth in the game. The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.” She reflected about the changes in the women’s game.

Despite winning no titles and only 34 matches in 2017, it has hard to rule out her chances. Twice this year, Williams has reached the final of a major. At the Australian Open she fell to sister Serena and then succumbed to Muguruza in Wimbledon. In the premier events, her best run was a semifinal appearence in Miami.

“They’re all pretty special,” Williams reflected about her appearances at the year-end event. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the tour finals after 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Head-to-head

Muguruza Pliskova Ostapenko Williams
Muguruza 2-6 2-1 2-3
Pliskova 6-2 2-0 1-1
Ostapenko 1-2 0-2 0-1
Williams 3-2 1-1 1-0

Schedule of play

Date Session Day/Night Start of Session
Sunday
22 October
1 Night 5:00pm – Singles
NB 7.30pm – Singles
Monday
23 October
2 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Tuesday
24 October
3 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Wednesday
25 October
4 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Thursday
26 October
5 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
6 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Friday
27 October
7 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
8 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Saturday
28 October
9 Day 1:30pm – Doubles Semi Final
NB 4:00pm – Singles Semi Final
10 Night 7:30pm – Singles Semi Final
FB – Doubles Semi Final
Sunday
29 October
11 Night 4:00pm – Doubles Final
NB 7:30pm – Singles Final

NOTE: Time according to Singapore timezone (GMT+8)

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WTA Ranking: Swiatek extends her dominance. Jabeur moves up to No. 6

Iga Swiatek leads the WTA rankings heading into Roland Garros after her latest win in Rome.

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Iga Swiatek (@WTA - Twitter)

By Claudio Girardelli, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

 

Unstoppable. Iga Swiatek wins her fourth WTA 1000 of the year, her fifth tournament in a row. Her winning streak rises to 28. After her triumph in Rome, she has extended the gap between herself and the other players to 2150 points. Neither Barbora Krejcikova, defending champion at Roland Garros, nor Badosa and Sakkari, who will be defending their quarterfinal and sem-ifinal of last year could bridge such a gap.

Yet, On the courts of the Bois de Boulogne there is much more at stake for Iga: if she weren’t to leave Paris with the Roland Garros crown, fans and pundits may cast some doubts upon the legitimacy of her leadership, conquered after Bartys’ shock retirement.

Unexpected. Who would have imagined Ons Jabeur could be so consistent? After winning the Mutua Madrid Open last week, she confirmed her worth and form at Rome. By reaching the final not only does she achieve her career best, but she is running for the top 5. Last year she reached the fourth round in Paris, but the players ahead of will be defending even more points than her: 2000 points Krejcikova, 430 Badosa, 780 Sakkari.

TOP 50

WTA Rank+/-PlayerTournaments playedPoints
10Iga Swiatek177061
20Barbora Krejcikova184911
30Paula Badosa274770
40Maria Sakkari184726
50Anett Kontaveit224446
6+1Ons Jabeur204380
7+1Aryna Sabalenka203966
8-2Karolina Pliskova163568
90Danielle Collins193315
100Garbiñe Muguruza183031
110Jessica Pegula202955
120Emma Raducanu232910
130Jelena Ostapenko192536
140Belinda Bencic192525
15+1Victoria Azarenka172440
16+1Elena Rybakina242420
17+1Leylah Fernandez242250
18-3Coco Gauff182165
19+2Simona Halep172126
20+3Daria Kasatkina222115
21-1Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova122093
22-3Angelique Kerber152074
23-1Madison Keys191899
24+5Jil Teichmann231783
25-1Tamara Zidansek201683
26-1Liudmila Samsonova271682
27-1Sorana Cirstea241670
28+4Amanda Anisimova201655
29+1Camila Giorgi211612
30-2Veronika Kudermetova221585
310Ekaterina Alexandrova221531
32-5Elina Svitolina201453
330Elise Mertens201446
340Petra Kvitova201435
350Marketa Vondrousova201421
360Anhelina Kalinina341387
37+3Yulia Putintseva241365
380Naomi Osaka111295
39-2Sara Sorribes Tormo231286
40-1Alizé Cornet241266
41+1Shuai Zhang361240
42+1Alison Riske241201
43+1Clara Tauson281199
44-3Ajla Tomljanovic231186
45+5Aliaksandra Sasnovich221183
460Kaia Kanepi221177
47-2Katerina Siniakova201171
48+3Nuria Parrizas Diaz421160
49+3Beatriz Haddad Maia351158
50+12Mayar Sherif421135

In the top 50, we can notice that:

  • In the top 10, Ons Jabeur (No.6) and Aryna Sabalenka (No.7) gain a position. The 2021 runner up in Rome, Karolina Pliskova drops 2 (No.8), still struggling this year.
  • In the top 20, best ranking for Leylah Fernandez (+1, No.17) while Coco Gauff loses three positions (No.18), yet to go that extra mile, beyond fifteenth place, her career best. Vi Simona Halep (+2, No.19) and Daria Kasatkina (+3, No.20) are back in the top 20.
  • Concerning positions from 21 to 50, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (-1, No.21) and Angelique Kerber (-3, No.22) slip out of the top 20. Jil Teichmann moves up 5 positions and reaches No.24. Amanda Anisimova (+4, No.28) and Aliaksandra Sasnovich (+5, No.45) are on the rise too. Three new entries in the top 50: Nuria Parrizas Diaz (+3, No.48), Beatriz Haddad Maia (+3, No.48) and the Egyptian Mayar Sherif (+12, No.50), who won the Liqui Moly Open 2022 in Karlsruhe. Elina Svitolina (No.32), who has just announced to be expecting a baby girl, loses 5 positions.

Three players leave the top 50: Shelby Rogers (-3, No.51), Sloane Stephens (-4, No.53) and Petra Martic (-23, No.70), defeated in Rome by Bianca Andreescu, who, after her 21-position leap of last week, gains other 18 positions and now is No.72. The other climbers of the week are: Xinyu Wang (+12, No.75), Lauren Davis (+12, No.90), Claire Liu (+26, No.92). Kristina Mladenovic instead slips out of the top 100 (-10, No.101).

NEXT GEN RANKING

Leyla Fernandez moves up to No.2 of the Next Gen ranking, which includes only players born after 1st January 2002. She overtakes Coco Gauff, now No.3. Sixteen-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva from Andorra, semi-finalist at the ITF Tournament in La Bisbal D’Emporda enters the top 10.

Position+/-PlayerYOBWTA Rank
10Emma Raducanu200212
2+1Leylah Fernandez200217
3-1Coco Gauff200418
40Clara Tauson200243
50Marta Kostyuk200259
60Qinwen Zheng200274
70Diane Parry200296
80Daria Snigur2002133
90Elina Avanesyan2002138
10Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva2005158

RACE

The WTA Race is dominated by Iga Swiatek who has over twice as many points as the closest chaser, Ons Jabeur. Aryna Sabalenka gains 6 positions (No.11) and Daria Kasatkina gains 4 (No.15). Jil Teichman (+4, No.18) enters the top 20.

Position+/-PlayerTournaments PlayedPts
10Iga Swiatek95290
20Ons Jabeur102510
30Paula Badosa111877
4+1Maria Sakkari91866
5-1Jessica Pegula101802
60Danielle Collins61686
70Anett Kontaveit91486
80Madison Keys101383
90Simona Halep81371
100Belinda Bencic91321
11+6Aryna Sabalenka111227
12+1Amanda Anisimova91216
13-2Jelena Ostapenko91167
14-2Veronika Kudermetova101143
15+4Daria Kasatkina101131
16-1Elena Rybakina111047
17-3Naomi Osaka6990
18+4Jil Teichmann10925
19-1Ekaterina Alexandrova10911
20-4Barbora Krejcikova4895

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ATP Rankings Update: Novak Djokovic Consolidates His Supremacy

How has events at last week’s Italian Masters impacted on the standings?

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ATP NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

by Roberto Ferri, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

The ATP Masters 1000 Rome, aka the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, haven’t significantly impacted the ATP Rankings.

 

Thanks to his first final in Rome, Stefanos Tsitsipas overtakes Rafael Nadal; Casper Ruud is back in 8th place while Matteo Berrettini loses two positions and now is No. 10. The most striking news is that Novak Djokovic, while conquering his sixth crown in Rome, appeared close to his best tennis and has once more opened up quite a gap between himself and his chasers. 

TOP 20

PositionPlayerCountryPts+/-
1DjokovicSerbia8660 
2MedvedevRussia7980 
3ZverevGermany7200 
4TsitsipasGreece61701
5NadalSpain5525-1
6AlcarazSpain4770 
7RublevRussia3945 
8RuudNorway39402
9Auger-AliassimeCanada3850 
10BerrettiniItalia3805-2
11NorrieGB3355 
12SinnerItaly31951
13HurkaczPoland3095-1
14FritzUSA2920 
15ShapovalovCanada26711
16SchwartzmanArgentina2505-1
17Carreno BustaSpain21351
18OpelkaUSA2090-1
19Bautista AgutSpain1903 
20DimitrovBulgaria1785 

NITTO ATP FINALS RACE TO TURIN

I came, I saw, I conquered.” Considering the geographic context, the Julius Ceasar quote seems most appropriate for commenting on Novak Djokovic’s triumph in Rome: thanks to the 1000 points earned in Rome, the world number 1 has whizzed up to 10th position in the ranking of the best players in 2022 with 1610 points.

Ahead of him (until when?) there are:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1NadalSpain3620
2TsitsipasGreece3490
3AlcarazSpain3460
4Auger AliassimeCanada2025
5ZverevGermany1980
6RublevRussia1920
7MedvedevRussia1900
8FritzUSA1765
9RuudNorway1615

NEXT GEN RACE TO MILAN

No changes have occurred in the ranking of the best under 21s:

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB
1AlcarazSpain34602003
2SinnerItaly12502001
3RuneDenmark5582003
4MusettiItalia4862002
5LeheckaCzech Rep.4832001
6DraperGB4492001
7TsengTaipei4202001
8NardiItaly2312003
9CobolliItaly2222002
10NakashimaUSA2002001

BEST RANKING

Eleven players in the top 100 reach their career best:

PlayerPositionCountry
Van de Zandshulp29Netherlands
Brooksby34USA
Rune40Denmark
Cerundolo44Argentina
Giron49USA
Bonzi53France
Altmaier54Germany
Lehecka77Czech Rep.
Tabito78Chile
Halys86France
Taberner88Spain

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Iga Swiatek on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Iga Swiatek has won her last 27 matches.  Ons Jabeur has won her last 11 matches.  They are easily the two best WTA players of the year thus far.  On Sunday, in their first meeting of the season, only one of them can continue their winning streak.

 

Novak Djokovic is a five-time champion in Rome, and a six-time runner-up.  This is his seventh final out the last eight years.  He faces Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a rematch of their dramatic championship match nearly a year ago at Roland Garros.

Also on Sunday, the men’s and women’s doubles finals will be played.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (9) – 1:00pm on Center Court

This should be an excellent championship match, featuring the WTA’s two hottest performers, and two of the sport’s most eclectic and likeable players.  Swiatek claimed their first meeting three years ago in Washington, but Jabeur took their last two (Wimbledon, Cincinnati).  Their Wimbledon encounter was easily their most prominent, where Ons came from a set down on Manic Monday, winning both of the last two sets 6-1.  The differences on that day were Jabeur’s superior play on break points, converting 7-of-7, compared to only 3-of-15 by Swiatek.  And Ons was +7 in winners to unforced errors, while Iga was -7. 

But nearly a year later, Swiatek has evolved into an even smarter, ultra-confident competitor.  She is 36-3 this season, with 27 straight victories.  And 22 of those 27 consecutive wins have been in straight sets.  Jabeur’s 11-match win streak is quite impressive as well, though she’s required two dramatic comebacks within the last 48 hours.  On Friday, she was down 6-1, 5-2 to Maria Sakkari, and two points from defeat.  On Saturday, she saved match point against Daria Kasatkina, eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third. 

As per the WTA, Jabeur is 21-0 this year when she wins the first set, making that set on Sunday all the more crucial.  But considering how draining Jabeur’s last two matches have been, Swiatek is the favorite to defend her title, and extend her win streak to 28-0 heading into Roland Garros.  That’s especially true on this surface, as these players are yet to meet on clay, which is Iga’s best surface.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) – Not Before 4:00pm on Center Court

Their last meeting was the aforementioned French Open final, where Tsitsipas could not close out the match out despite winning the first two sets.  That was Novak’s fifth consecutive victory over Stefanos, and third straight on clay.  They also played last year in the quarterfinals of this event, when Djokovic won 7-5 in the third.  And at Roland Garros two years ago, they also went the distance, with Novak winning in five.  The Greek’s only two victories over Djokovic have come on hard courts: four years ago in Canada, and three years ago in Shanghai. 

Tsitsipas leads the ATP this year with 31 match wins, and an impressive 14-2 record on clay.  By contrast, this is only the unvaccinated Novak’s fifth tournament of the season, and he hasn’t won a title.  Yet Djokovic has been the more in-form player this week, advancing to this final without dropping a set.  Tsitsipas has been pushed to a decider three times this week.

But has Djokovic fully rediscovered his top form?  Can he earn his first victory over a top five player since November?  This will be a huge test for Novak, and will reveal just how ready he is for his French Open title defense, which begins in just a week’s time.  He’s yet to be fully tested this week, and I fully expect Tsitsipas to do so.  Winning this title would be a huge boost for either player heading into Paris, as it will either be Novak’s first title in six months, or Stefanos’ second Masters 1000 title on clay this season.  Based on recent results, and Djokovic’s lack of play this season, I give the slight edge to the more match-tough Tsitsipas to win on Sunday.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Madrid Open champions Dabrowski and Olmos are playing for their second WTA 1000 title in as many weeks.  This is Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova’s first tournament as a team.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (3) vs. John Isner and Diego Schwartzman – Mektic and Pavic were easily the best men’s doubles team of 2021, with nine titles.  But they’re yet to win a tournament this season.  Isner has already won two Masters 1000 doubles title this season with two other partners (Sock, Hurkacz).


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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